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Staying cool and staying safe in Cyprus

By Lucie Robson

Earlier one evening this week, I realised that the door frames, floors and even the cushions on my sofa were emanating the heat they had absorbed during the day.

So, at 11pm, the scorching heat the island has been experiencing was showing no signs of letting up but was simply fading for the night very, very slowly, only to return with renewed intensity the following morning.

During one of the scorching mornings this week, I placed a bowl of water outside for the street strays and watched as one (ironically named Flame owing to his nose-to-tail red coat) drank for a full 90 seconds nonstop.

If you count it, 90 seconds is a long time to sip something without a break.

Just about every year, Cyprus has a few days of above average temperatures in the late 30s on the coast and early 40s in the capital, the likes of which we have been experiencing.

While the authorities issue warnings about keeping indoors, wearing light clothing, drinking plenty of water and using air-conditioning, I’ve always been surprised that they have not made more cooling centres available over the few days when the heat is not only solely hard to bear but life-threatening.

At the time of writing this column, two elderly people have died from heat-related conditions and more are in hospital.

Cooling centres are pretty standard things in countries where the summer heat reaches dangerous peaks. They are essentially air-conditioned public space set up temporarily by the authorities in order to mitigate the health effects of hyperthermia in a heat wave.

These venues offer water, shade and relief from the heat, particularly for vulnerable populations. If you stay in one for long enough, your core body temperature stabilises, so you’re out of danger of any hyperthermia-linked health ‘incident’.

I remember a couple of years ago when the island went through a similar heat wave, cooling centres were set up. But it wasn’t the authorities that took the initiative; it was Hermes, the operator of the island’s airports that did so.

It opened its doors to the public, welcoming the overheated into its air-conditioned spaces and offered cooling drinks.

This time, Nicosia Municipality at least opened a council venue in the old city as a cooling centre (albeit perhaps too late, several days after the heat wave started).

I hope that, by the time this is published, the Paphos municipality has followed suit.

Even better, I hope I stand corrected and it has already opened one somewhere.

For people who are at home and are vulnerable (the fact that the two unfortunate hyperthermia deaths were of elderly people speaks volumes) the story may be different. Not everyone can afford the cost of running air-conditioning nonstop for several days. Some people don’t even have it.

The municipalities should step up to the plate in advance of these forecast heatwaves and set up cooling centres in strategic places. Everybody knew the intense heat was on its way, so there is absolutely no excuse for inaction.

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